8) Be interesting. And interested.
Back to the story about my screenplay. I was asked to come in and talk to the executives about the movie. I appeared as requested, and since it was cold I wore a jacket. This particular jacket had “Black Belt Club” embroidered on it. One of the executives noticed it and demanded “What does THAT mean?”
I told him it meant I was a black belt. (This is true. I also crochet. ‘Cause that’s how I roll.)
He gave me a five minute lecture about how karate was voodoo.
I asked — very good-naturedly — if he would like a demonstration.
He — very good-naturedly — tried to punch me.
I — still all in good humor — carefully put him face-down on the conference table.
Then I let him up.
And we had a two hour discussion about karate. Nary a word was spoken about my screenplay, but the papers for the script were in the mail less than a week later.
This is not advice to attack potential publishers or purchasers. But it does highlight a very real fact: given the choice between two excellent writers, publishers and other people involved in purchasing your work will choose the more interesting and interested one. Because of the pervasive nature of today’s media, a writer must (if he wishes to become a famous writer, as opposed to someone who writes for an audience of one) be prepared to be more than just a wordsmith. He must be a friend, an intimate, and someone that others can feel connected to and interested in.
Due to the incredible sums of money at stake whenever a publishing house is releasing “the next big thing” or a production company is backing a tentpole movie, the writer is no longer able to be the lone hermit in front of a computer. He must be prepared to be interviewed, to do book signings, to do lectures, and generally speaking to be poked and prodded like a veal cow about to take its last walk down the chute.
Not only that, but the writer must be aware that things like “privacy” and “one’s own opinions” have largely gone the way of the eight-track cassette: people have heard of them, but hardly anyone uses them or grants them any kind of importance. Being writers, you will be writing on the internet, where everything you say and do becomes words to haunt you for the rest of your life. Being writers, you will be available for television and radio interviews where your image and your thoughts are frozen in time.
Being a writer, you must prepare yourself for the fact that you must be more than just a writer. You must be a character. There are the occasional exceptions (J.D. Salinger has not, to my knowledge, appeared on The Today Show recently). But for the most part “the real you” may not be enough — particularly if “the real you” is shy and unassuming.
You are a writer. And if you want to be a successful one, you must also be a personality.
CONTINUE TO PART 9